Tired of Virtual Conferences? Check Out These 5 Professional Development Resources for Marketers

Marketers have spent most of the last year scrambling. No one had neat workshops or helpful guides prepared on how to rearrange a strategy to account for a global pandemic. Many development opportunities assumed participants could travel (or at least that they would not be forced to work from home indefinitely).

Obviously, things turned out differently. With COVID-19 still hanging over our collective heads and no concrete end date in sight, marketers must accept that their professional development opportunities look a little different than they did last year.

Some of the most popular conferences in marketing, like HubSpot’s Inbound 2020, went fully virtual this year. Others canceled entirely, promising to come back bigger and better next year. Now that all of us spend our days in Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting, though, the prospect of doing the same thing in the name of professional development is less than appealing.

Marketers need time to step away and rest their minds to prepare for new information. To do so, they need professional development avenues they can pursue at their own pace, not day-long webinar series that end with glassy eyes and notes that stopped shortly after lunch. 

If you’re tired of Zoom calls but would still like to expand your skill set, consider taking advantage of these five professional development resources.

1. Podcasts

Podcasts have exploded in popularity for good reason. You can listen to a podcast at your desk, in the car, during exercise, and anywhere else you can get away with wearing headphones. Binge five podcasts in one sitting or listen to five minutes at a time: the choice is yours.

Marketers have a variety of great podcast options. Hawke Media’s HawkeTalk covers fascinating stories about how some of the world’s most successful people built their careers. This Old Marketing, a podcast from Content Marketing Institute, is a must-listen for anyone who deals in content. To sharpen your social media skills, go with Buffer’s The Science of Social Media.

2. Self-Guided Training

Webinars and keynote speeches take a long time to sit through. Even if the speakers have interesting insights to share, your attention span can only take so much in one sitting. Self-guided training resources eliminate this problem by allowing you to consume content, take tests, and earn certifications at your own pace during moments you feel ready to learn.

HubSpot Academy has tons of great resources for sales teams and marketers. If you complete a full course, you earn a certification that looks great on your CV, and the content of the learning tracks is filled with useful, actionable tips. Coursera hosts a variety of courses from top companies and thought leaders on subjects for marketers, including remote communications and data study.

3. Books

Spend too much time staring at glowing rectangles? You’re not alone. When offices were still safe places to be, people already spent too much time looking at screens. Now that a pandemic has sent everyone home, every meeting and conversation requires a screen.

Books provide a welcome break while offering great knowledge to patient readers. You can even use an e-reading device like a Kindle without suffering screen exhaustion, as most e-readers don’t use the same lighting as regular monitors. Check out Content Chemistry, Talk Triggers, or Building a Story Brand. If you have already read those, why not pick up a book on psychology? At its core, marketing is just applied psychology in a business setting.

4. Online Groups

Personal development often originates with other people. Are you talking to enough of them?

If not, look for a LinkedIn Group that focuses on your marketing niche. Engage with others in your space, ask questions, and read the content they share. Some groups inevitably become black holes of self-promotion, but if you find a good one, you can spend hours drinking up the firsthand knowledge of your expert peers.

Slack groups fulfill a similar purpose, but they’re a little harder to find. See if anyone in your LinkedIn groups can send you an invite, or look for a group sponsored by a brand in your field. 

5. Other Organizations’ Marketing

Who says professional development requires a formal structure? You already know which brands do a great job of speaking to their audiences, both in your industry and beyond. Schedule some time to do a deep dive into other organizations’ marketing to see what’s working well for them and how you could learn.

You probably already use this practice for competitor research, but try approaching it from a professional development perspective and see what changes. You may discover that you would benefit from adding more video marketing skills to your arsenal or realize that a personal blog could help your career. Until you try, though, you’ll never know.

Personal development doesn’t have to feel like a chore. On the contrary, if you do it right, professional development can be a liberating and enlightening experience without the need for all-day webinars and speaker series. Take advantage of these resources to give your career and your company a boost.

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